Shane Jessee from Glacier Electric installs a rainbow flag at the corner of Main Street and Second Ave June 18. (Grant Harris photo)

Town raises rainbow flags in lieu of repainting crosswalk

Council decides it could not afford the crosswalk this year

At its regular meeting June 9, Smithers Town Council voted to forgo repainting the Smithers Pride rainbow crosswalk at Main Street and Second Avenue.

In a report to council on the awarding of the 2020 traffic marking contract, Mark Allen, director of operations, noted in the past the rainbow painting had been completed by volunteers. But this year, he wrote, staff is not available to manage the volunteer group and would have to be contracted out.

The Town received one bid of $5,200 from Yellowhead Pavement Marking. Allen said this is comparable to what it has cost in the past.

The amount would be on top of the $60,108 traffic marking contract, which came in under the approved budget of $64,260. Allen noted the surplus would not cover the cost of the crosswalk and an additional $1,047 would have to come from road maintenance funds, which would take away from other necessary repairs.

The issue was accompanied by a number of letters and discussion surrounding future alternatives to the crosswalk. Coun. John Buikema suggested a table.

“Imagine a [finely] crafted, beautiful wood table installed in the heart of Smithers,” Buikema wrote. “As people approach, they would see a warm, welcoming sign: “Voices Around Our Table.” Drawing closer, people would discover the surface of this table to be quite unique. Upon the tabletop, the diversity of our valley would be represented through symbol: the LGBTQ+ community, the Witsuwit’en, those who struggle with mental health, faith communities, agricultural and mining communities, local businesses, environmentalists, the RCMP, outdoor enthusiasts, etc.”

The idea of a more inclusive was also put forward by Rachel Werk in a letter offering to design a new inclusive crosswalk, fundraise for it and organize volunteers.

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Perry Rath, vice president of the Smithers Pride Society also wrote to council with a number of other suggestions for Pride visibility within the town and suggesting the society may be willing to take on the fundraising to pay for it.

Council also received 28 more letters from the public mostly opposing the rainbow crosswalk, many of which also echoed the inclusivity message, but also contained objections to LGBTQ lifestyles on religious grounds.

Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill said she appreciated that people are passionate about the issue on both sides, but council decided to forego the painting this year for financial reasons and table the discussion of alternatives to the next budget cycle.

In the end, council agreed to provide staff with a budget of $350 to raise two Pride flags on either side of Main Street at Second Avenue in lieu of repainting this year.

The flags went up this morning (June 18).

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